The benefit of using a bail bond company to get someone out of jail is you only have to pay a fraction of the required amount (e.g. 10% of the bail ordered). The main drawback, though, is the fee charged by bondsmen is typically non-refundable, so you won't get the money back when the case is over like you would if you'd paid the court directly. However, here are two exceptions when a bail company might return your money.
The Defendant Isn't Released From Jail
Bailing someone out of jail is a straightforward matter. You contract with the bail company; the company issues a bond for the bail amount and sends it to the court; the person in jail is released. Sometimes during the process, though, problems arise and, even though bail has been paid, the jail doesn't let the defendant go.
When this happens, many times it's because the defendant has another criminal case pending for which bail still needs to be decided. Other times, a defendant may be retained because the judge revoked bail at the last minute, which is usually the result of a significant development in the case that caused the judge to change his or her mind.
In either event, the end result is the defendant wasn't released as planned. With this being the case, the bail company may let you cancel the contract and refund your money since the transaction wasn't completed. If not, ask the bondsman if they will apply the fee you did pay towards a new contract once the problem with the defendant gets straightened out.
The Defendant is Released on Their Own Recognizance
Just because a judge set bail in a case doesn't mean it's unchangeable. Sometimes an attorney will return to court and request the judge adjust the bail amount or do away with it completely. This typically occurs in cases where the defendant has proven he or she can't afford bail or isn't as much of a flight risk as the court first thought.
If the judge orders bail in a lesser amount, a bondsman will often reduce the fee required to match the reduced bond cost. Similarly, the company may refund your money altogether — minus any processing fees — if bail is eliminated altogether.
Be aware, though, this may only occur if the bail company hasn't sent the bond to the court yet. If the bond has already been submitted, the availability of a refund may depend on whether the court gives the company back its money and any costs associated with the company withdrawing the bond.
For help bailing yourself, a friend, or a family member out of jail, contact a local bail bonds company.